Artur Beterbiev vs Joe Smith Jr. is a hell of a fight

There is something about Canelo Avarez’s recent decision loss to Dmitry Bivol that has upped my interest in this fight.

Just a few weeks ago, it seemed almost like a given that Canelo would move up to light heavyweight, beat Bivol and likely fight and beat the winner of this fight, claiming light heavyweight supremacy. But the whole landscape of the light heavyweight division is different now, and who the top dog is is not clear at all. Now all roads don’t lead to Canelo.  

Beterbiev (17-0, 17 ko) is a TRUE light heavyweight. He was a heavyweight as an amateur, and after recently watching one of his multiple amateur fights against Oleksandr Usyk, it’s actually hard to imagine how he makes 175. 

Artur is a hard dude. It looks painful to throw punches at him, and he has shown now in multiple fights at the top level against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Marcus Browne that even great boxers with elite skills can’t keep him off of them, being broken down round by round. He cuts off the ring, has decent defense and hits like a heavyweight. Generally he starts slow, and the fight doesn’t really start until he lands a body shot, at which time the other fighter becomes more stationary, allowing Artur to let go of his creative combinations. In my mind, he’s the favorite in any fight he’s in.

In Joe Smith Jr. (28-3, 22 ko), you have somewhat the opposite, a guy with a lesser amateur background who has often won as the underdog. I personally have predicted that he would lose on multiple occasions in fights he won. He’s not great technically, but he’s also strong like a heavyweight and his boxing skills have improved a lot over the years. He’s clearly learned from his losses to Sullivan Barrera and Dmitry Bivol. At this point after four straight wins over quality opposition, he’s a legitimate and established champion. Otis Griffin, who has fought the who’s who of light heavyweights once told me Joe Smith was the strongest guy he’d ever fought. 

There is a lot to like about this fight, a unification against two legit top 5 guys who are basically in their prime. They both come forward and have exciting, aggressive styles. I expect fireworks, and ultimately a knockout victory from Beterbiev. But if Smith won, it wouldn’t be the first time that I, and a whole lot of other people, were wrong about him.  

On the undercard, in a big step up in competition for both Robeisy Ramirez (9-1, 5 ko) takes on Abraham Nova (21-0, 15 ko) in a featherweight fight I’m personally very excited about. Ramirez has shown on multiple occasions that he has top level boxing skills, and Nova presents a different kind of offensive challenge. He’s much more aggressive than anyone Robeisy has fought, and Nova is bigger, more aggressive, and more skilled than anyone Robeisy has fought. A true 50/50 fight that will likely elevate the winner to contender status. 

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Dakota McCormick

Dakota McCormick

Gym rat, trainer, and host of "The Slip and Weave Podcast"